FFL president addresses problem of pregnancy on campus

CHESTNUT HILL -- The lack of resources available to pregnant and parenting students on most college campuses causes expectant coeds to drop out or abort their children, said Serrin M. Foster, president of Feminists for Life of America (FFL).

Foster, speaking at Boston College on March 11, said the idea that a pregnant student cannot complete her education is insulting to women. Women do not lose their intelligence or ability to study when they become pregnant, she said.

With cooperation from the university, parenting students can graduate. They need child-friendly housing, daycare and convenient parking, she said.

Expectant mothers on campus may give up on themselves when they realize those resources are not available. In addition, their pregnancy may not be covered by the university’s health insurance, she said.

“Abortion is a reflection that we have not met the needs of women,” said Foster, citing a study by the Guttmacher Institute that finds the root causes that drive women to abortion to be a lack of resources and support.

Foster added that most abortions are obtained by college students and young working women. When there are few visibly pregnant women on campus, it is reasonable to conclude that many college students have made the choice to abort, she said.

Jennifer Frey, a BC sophomore studying history and secondary education, said she recalls seeing only one pregnant woman on campus in her two years of study. As a pro-life Catholic, she would like to see more options available for pregnant students -- some of whom feel they must abort their children, she said.

Frey added that she was encouraged by Foster’s suggestion to hold a pregnancy resource forum. A previous forum was held two years ago with low attendance, but Frey said she believes the climate at the school has changed.

“I think people are becoming more aware of what’s happening on campus,” she said.

Abigail Craycraft, president of BC’s Pro-Life Club that sponsored the event, agreed and added that it is important for Catholics to focus on helping women facing crisis pregnancies.

“A lot of people know the Catholic Church is against abortion. They don’t always hear what we’re going to do about it,” she said.

Four other BC organizations -- the Department of Theology, the Department of Philosophy, the Office of University Mission and Ministry as well as the Women’s Resource Center -- co-sponsored the event.

While in Boston, Foster also spoke at Harvard Law School and Tufts University. Feminists for Life, established in 1972, is a pro-life, nonsectarian, nonpartisan, grassroots organization.

Foster, the organization’s founder, said early feminists like Mary Wollstonecraft, Sarah Norton and Elizabeth Cady Stanton opposed abortion. She also noted that in the 1800s abortion was common and the number one advertiser in women’s magazines was an abortion pill.

“The suffragettes linked the dignity of women to their children,” she said. “They did not believe that their rights should come at the expense of others, including their own children.”

Elizabeth Cady Stanton called abortion “infanticide” and “murder” in her writings. In a letter to Julia Ward Howe, she wrote, “When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit.”

It was later in the movement that feminists began to align themselves with the male-dominated media and medical community, Foster added.

In the 1970s, women began to believe that if they wanted to be educated, hired and paid like men, they could not bother their employers with pregnancy and maternity leave. In essence, they believed that equality could only be obtained by becoming more like men in the workplace, she said.

Even now, women look to part-time work and job sharing. Few women enjoy the job flexibility that would allow them to work and care for their children. Few employers allow adjustable hours, working from home or bringing children to the office, she added.

Foster concluded her talk by exhorting the students to act on their pro-life views.

At other schools across the nation, pro-life students have raised money to support pregnant students or started babysitting groups. They have brought attention to the need for diaper decks, married and family housing, flexible study options and other resources that make parenting on campus possible, she said.

“I don’t want to be doing this in 20 years. I want to be retired. It’s your mission to fix this society, so go do it,” she said.

Maria McCoy, a professor of philosophy, brought her entire Wednesday night class to Foster’s talk. McCoy, who describes herself as a Catholic pro-life feminist, said she wanted her students “exposed to the possibility” that pro-life feminists exist.

Authentic feminism supports women as women and does not ask them to sacrifice their children. Rather, the interest of mother and child often come together, she said.

McCoy spoke optimistically about her young students, saying that most do not have the 1970s notion that abortion and feminism go hand-in-hand.

“The students are really interested in having an open discussion about the issue of abortion,” she said.